Seeing Past the Present

After causing an increase in their workload, Moshe attempts to calm the fears of the Jewish people. While using the four languages of redemption (which become the 4 cups of wine on Pesach), he spells out how Hashem will not only release them from their slavery, but do so in miraculous fashion. Despite his descriptive plea, the Jewish people are no longer interested: “they did not listen to Moshe, from shortness of breath and from difficult work” (6:9).

Many commentaries try to decipher what these phrases mean. One comment in particular, of the Meshech Chochma, notes how their apprehension is not unique to the struggle in Egypt, but instead speaks to the human condition in general. He explains that the nature of hard, laborious activity can become so all-consuming that the mind cannot think about anything except ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. The issue, therefore, wasn’t necessarily in Moshe’s claims- they themselves believed him just last week (4:31)! Furthermore, the verse doesn’t say that they disagreed or rejected him, but rather that they simply “did not listen”. In this way, we understand that the issue was less about what Moshe said, and more about what they could hear, that they couldn’t listen to anything beyond their current task. Their work was so overwhelming in the moment that they couldn’t see past it; they couldn’t entertain the ‘big picture’ of the future. All they could focus on was the here and now.

As human beings we can only focus on so many things at once, and understandably so. But oftentimes, that focus on the “now” prevents us from appreciating what’s ahead. The Jewish people were unable to take a step back from their current affairs to realize what miracles were in store for them. Getting stuck in the present is a never-ending task which can prevent us from seeing the big-picture. If we can’t pause what we’re doing, listen to the messages, and plan for the future, we may miss the blessings G-d presents for us.